Decompressing After a Satisfying Day

pine (2)

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”


When I began plein air painting about seven years ago, the first lesson I had to learn was to abstract from the visible world that overpowered my vision and intimidated me before my easel.  Robert Motherwell wrote that “abstract” comes from a Latin word meaning “to take from”, and that a painter abstracts every time s/he selects an object and reconstructs it on a two-dimensional surface.

When I stepped out of my vehicle at South Fork, Colorado last weekend, I was overwhelmed at the complex beauty of this mountain environment that I have enjoyed for over a decade now. This was the first time I was determined not only to bring along my art supplies, but to give plein air just as much attention as trout fishing.

The first object I selected was a solitary pine tree directly in front of my cabin porch.  I sketched it in pencil the first afternoon I was here, and mosquitoes chewed me up as I worked quickly.  After several subsequent days of sketching forests and mountain bluffs, I returned to this lone pine and gave it my full attention after lunch today with my friends.

Annie Dillard’s references to the “color patch” in her excellent book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek flooded my consciousness this afternoon as I stared at this tree and attempted to capture the colors threading through the bark and the limbs.  Much of what Annie wrote about the “color patch” reminded me of ideas gleaned from Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro in the early days of French Impressionism.  The longer I stared at this tree bark the more amused I was at recalling Jasper Johns’s statement that an artist paints things that other people look at but never see.  It was true that I was indeed seeing the bark of a pine tree for the first time up close in concentrated study. I still have so much to learn.

Looking back over this past week, I can honestly say that I have not been as successful fly fishing in the stream as I’ve been in previous years here, but I’m willing to chalk that up to high waters and very fast currents.  I refuse to feel badly about that because I am delighted that I’ve had the finest opportunities for plein air painting, and I’m so glad I took advantage of those opportunities.  I feel I have learned a great deal, just as I did recently while spending a week on the island in the Laguna Madre.  I’m certain that my studio work will improve as a  result.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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6 Responses to “Decompressing After a Satisfying Day”

  1. davidtripp Says:

    I love the dimensions you have shown in the bark- I want to touch it to see how the texture feels! So grateful to have watched this process during our great time together.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Whoever you are, thanks! My site says that I sent this comment, and I know better! It’s creepy, because it leaves me musing whether or not I’ve had an out-of-body experience and mailed myself a kind comment!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Dian Darr! I’m glad I found out you posted this–it still says that I originated it! I’m glad you go to see this work from its beginning stages.


  2. Margaret Parker Brown Says:

    wonderful tree…..your ability to pull out and emphasize the texture is amazing, especially for plein air. Did you use salt? I have tried it a few times but I think I didn’t have the correct type to do much good. Anyway, nice job!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you. Yes, salt was used, but I often don’t get much effect from it–probably try to use it when the paper is too wet. I also use stale bread crumbs and they give a much more interesting textural effect. I learned that from the latest issue of “The Art of Watercolour”, an article by Julian Bruere.

      Liked by 1 person

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